December 30, 2010

Things You Won't Die From (List Pome #723)

                  but Love will make you want to
                  but Art is a deadly passion
                  but the wrong words in the wrong place can
                  but then there is always Darkness
                  but too much Sunshine will
                  but someday they will surround your grave
                  unless they fall on you
                  unless your dream is of Death
                  but wrong notes can kill a career
                  but they can make you wish you had
                  except for the last one
Love ?
                   – but I already said you would

December 28, 2010

Sunday Four Poetry, December 26

Back up to Voorheesville, a warm center of poetry, with today's featured poet, Howard Kogan, but first time for some open mic poets, introduced by Edie Abrams.

I was first & began with Enid Dame's "Holiday Poem," my favorite for this time of year, then my own for the fading of the light, "What Happens in Autumn," written in October. Alan Casline began by talking about a "Michael McClure line I found while climbing the 10 mountains," that I thought was a title for a poem, then I missed the line, oh well. His poem was a meditative piece on a falling leaf, then what he called a "creation myth poem, "Double Tree" & ended with a poem titled (I think) "Carl Young's Benevolent Bird" (or was that Karl Jung?); anyway, Hiawatha made his way into it too.

Dennis Sullivan talked a little about the work & the death of the poet Deborah Digges, then read his poem dedicated to her, "Ode to the Long Walk Up the Stadium Stairs;" "Ode to Darkness" was dedicated to his sister, then he explored a different kind of "darkness" in "A Room's Made Just for You."

Dan Ornstein was the first of the afternoon's 2 new poets, & he began with a rush hour portrait, "Penn Station Eatery;" next a take-off from Robert Frost with "The Book Not Purchased," then the sonnet, "Sinner Sermon."

Edie Abrams read just one, untitled poem, about the pillar of salt (& defiance) in the desert that had been Lot's wife. As she finished, & was about to introduce the featured poet, she noticed someone come in & asked him if he wanted to read too.

So Sterling Post, the second new person of the afternoon, came up to read 2 poems, the first about the sights & sounds of his "Neighborhood," the second, "Until the Work is Done" with a number of references to Buddhism.

Howard Kogan hadn't been to Voorheesville for the poetry before he entered the Smith's Tavern Poet Laureate Contest last April, & ended up as one of the runners up. Today's selection of poems was a mix of poignant tenderness & humor & tenderness. He began with 2 companion pieces about a woman contemplating losing her husband ("The Community of Old Women") & a man alone who has lost his spouse ("The Isolation of Old Men"). In "Echo" he confounds the technician doing an echocardiogram by imagining himself as a whale. The stories in "Visiting for Jehovah," "Heroic Companions," & "Nuns in Motion" were funny in a laugh-out-loud way, vivid images & stories well told. The poet pondered eternity in "The Rabbi is Annoyed" & a Memorial Day party was amused by the mating of "Tree Swallows." A late night conversation in bed became "On Reading Poe Late at Night," & following the old adage to "leave them laughing," he ended with more humor in "3 Jokes in Science." Howard's poems are written in a relaxed conversational tone, well-suited both for the humor & for the deeper, more philosophical considerations. And almost a Poet Laureate.

December 27, 2010

Third Thursday Poetry Night, December 16

Before we even began we began with someone wandering in from the street to improv a love poem, then to wander back out into the night -- life in the big city.

& then time for the annual visit from Sanity Clause with presents for all the bad poets who read in the open mic. But first I read Enid Dame's "Holiday Poem" to invoke the true spirit of the season -- a great poet gone from us too soon.

First up was Jason Crane with a poem he dedicated to me, called "Prophecy" invoking Ornette Coleman (& which he presented to me framed as an Xmas present (thanks, Jason!). Julie Lomoe's poem was "Entropia," whom she called the goddess of disorder; one of the minority of women in the audience to get to have the fun of sitting on Sanity Clause's lap.

Josh McIntyre read a short poem, "Rattle & Hum," with "the impossible is always near." Beatriz Loyola brought us the gift of multi-lingual poetry, reading "Discontinuidad" by Ulalume Gonzalez, a Mexican poet originally from Uruguay, watching a bird, & wolf in winter; Beatriz alternated reading a stanza in melifluous Spanish with the English translation. Alan Casline's poem "In & Out of Dutch" also brought in Winter images. Barry Goldman hadn't been around for a while & was back with more Winter sights, of crows in the city, "The Wind Weaving the Minds of Crows."

Tonight's featured poet, Ed Rinaldi, brought out his poems he has been writing since June, when he left Facebook & started using Google-chat to text his poems to others. Many of these seem longer than the poems he had brought out earlier in the year to open mics. He began with a poem titled with a word he made up, the surreal "Doppleganglitis," then on to the equally surreal cultural commentary with "Listening in the Wind for the Zombie Vanguard." He followed his "inner-beatnik" with the "Scratchy Epic 45 Pause with Cigarette & Beer," one image-thought following another, then a tender poem about his son beating him in whiffle ball. A poem on marriage & relationships had a long title that faded into the poem itself, just like his images & word clusters, as did the word play of "Hallowed Eves." He ended with what he called an "inner-hippy poem," "Chasing Butterflies in the Basil" (not the kind of herb you would expect a hippy to be romping through). Even the featured poet got to sit on Sanity Clause's lap, tell what a bad boy he has been, then get a gift of a poetry journal.

After the break, I continued with new poem from November, "Fast & Slow" based on an art & poetry exhibit at Sage College, with pictures created by children in Ha Noi. Alan Catlin said he was channeling the 1960's with a poem about John Lennon & the Beatles "It Was 40 Years Ago Today," based on a story told by a NYC cop about guarding the Fab 4 during their NY visit. Don Levy read "Meeting Ginsberg" from his series of memoir-poems centered around the QE2. Bob Sharkey's "Names" was a funny crescendoing string of the names he has been called throughout his life. Moses Kash III tried to sell the last copy of one of his many self-made collections, for the bargain price of $25. or $50. or whatever he could get, then shared with us one of the poems from the book, "I'm Just a Black Man." Sylvia Barnard was further down the list than usual; she read the seasonal poem on "The Messiah" (& claimed she started teaching Latin so long that when she started it wasn't a dead language).

Daniel Nester did the "annoying thing" (his words) & read from his laptop, "Bob & Tom's Fish Fry" composed from sentence-combining sheets like those he uses with his students, a rambling autobiography; he was also one of the most enthusiastic & inappropriate lap-sitters. Avery Stemple read from Carl Solomon's book, in honor of the movie "Howl" being shown in Albany. Bless was our "ultimate" (i.e., last) poet, with his poem, "Complacency," which he "flow-wrote," so by the time he finished it it was memorized, seeing his old streets in New York.

Check my Flickr! site for more photos of all the bad poets on the lap on Sanity Clause.

December 17, 2010

Contemplatio Mortis

There is a day each year that will be carved
on my tombstone, printed in my obituary
the unknown bookend to my birthday
the future anniversary of my death.
A day that if we knew we would celebrate
each year, raise our wine, our beer to toast
to waking the next day until that year we didn’t.

December 15, 2010

BookMarks: The Memoir Project Reading Series, December 13

"Siblings" was the theme for the third in this series at the Arts Center in Troy. Each reading has a different theme & is "curated" by a different woman (whoops, except the first one that I, a definite male, coordinated). Tonight's curator was Marion Roach Smith, who teaches memoir workshops at the Arts Center. It was mostly a reading of prose memoir, all women writers, with a lone poet making her second appearance in the series.

The first writer was Tina Lincer with "The Visit" from a longer work, "Confessions of a Reluctant Sister." Like most of what followed, it was a straight-forward telling of a family vignette. In this piece the narrator fights with with her mother & sister while making an apple pie.

Megan Galbraith's piece "Letter to My Younger Sister" was exactly that, an actual letter she wrote to her sister to give her life-advice about men, philosophical & big-sisterly.

Tanya Daniel's narrative, "My Brother, My Hero, My Guardian Angel," was a piece of direct family history & tribute, but marred by an overt religious/inspirational message of tenuous value to the story.

Mary Judd was the most seasonal with "Elfster and the Law of Attraction." Another real-life family story about drawing the name you least want on a gift-exchange website, with the new Age-y message of "think positive."

The night's lone poet was Leslie B. Neustadt whose poem to her sister, "Our Stories," showed how imagination infusing the memoir can turn a pedestrian story to art (& as Allen Ginsberg once wrote, "Maximum information, minimum number of syllables").

Similarly, Jennifer E. O'Brien, in her prose memoir "Penn Station," used an imaginative device of seeing but not meeting a brother she had not yet met to add emotional depth to what could have been a plain telling of a family story.

The last reader, Diane Cameron, wrote about the death of her brothers by weaving in the image of the Easter Bunny & her sick & dying brothers, as specific as teeth marks on the handles of her Easter basket, making an abstraction like "resurrection" alive in the image of a child's fantasy.

In between each reader, & at the end in a sort of summary, Marion Roach Smith interjected her own commentary on the writing, the themes, the techniques of each writer. I have my own way of doing things (cf. the reading I hosted here in this series in October), but none of this night's writing was so esoteric that one needed a guide to know where it was going, what the writers were saying. In fact, at times it seemed that Marion was conducting a class & telling us what to think. I prefer to let the work speak for itself.

Speaking of which, or not, there are 4 more readings in this series. You can find the schedule at the Arts Center website, as well as listings of classes & other events.

December 13, 2010

Poetry + Prose Open Mic, December 12

The series continues, with Nancy Klepsch & me as the hosts, with an eclectic mix of area writers.

First up was Jason Crane with 2 poems, "Rom-Com," a sort of the grass is greener in someone else's relationship, & a consideration of the Japanese poet, "Ah, Bashō, Who Were You Really?" Kate Laity was back with an excerpt from a short story published in an anthology from the UK, looking at Rothko, but more.
This was David Wolcott's first reading, having only been writing since this summer, with a selection from a prose piece, "Addiction." Richard Morell has recently published a collection of poems called Doom Sonnets (Troy Book Makers), from which he read #1, then a long piece in progress, "Gifts I've Received from My Father" (who died earlier this year).

Carol Jewell loves to write pantoums & read one about her cat. Joe Krausman read 2 poems combining seeds & words, "Becoming Something Else" & "Word Seeds" (with words as genes, chromosomes, a gentler version of William S. Burroughs "word is virus"). Ron Drummond's dream-like prose piece (or was it 2 run together?) started off with a woman harvesting menstrual blood for her garden, then to a woman writing.

My co-host, Nancy Klepsch's first poem was "We Need an Army of Harveys," a work-in-progress, & then a poem on marriage, "A Handsome Woman." I stepped up next for just one holiday poem, "Christmas Eve, 1945."  Carolee Sherwood read 2 poems with titles ending in "-ge" (you can find them on her Blog), "Salvage" on remembering her past in a restaurant, & the ghost-filled "Vestige." Jill Crammond (whose hair was not-quite perfect) began with poem playing on "kind" & "prickly," "Santa's Secret Sale" & then "Marilyn Monroe & Jesus Meet on an Airplane" (how can you miss with a title like that?).

After Avery delivered his rant on the contradictions in out culture, "Drowning in Popular Culture," Nancy said members of Congress should be made to write it 100 times.

It's been a long time since I typed the name Jil Hanifan here in this Blog & it was good to see & hear her again; she read 2 poems on snow, "Blizzard," on the the kind of weather we hate (& dedicated to her sister, a mail-carrier in Syracuse), & on the beauty of new snow, "Snow Whales." Tim Verhaegen finished off the afternoon with a funny & poignant poem, "The Shirtless Guy on McHale's Navy."

This was the second time we gathered on the second Sunday at 2PM at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., in Troy, NY. And we plan to be back on the next second Sunday. Join us.

December 12, 2010


(This is an old poem that I like to read this time of year; I describe it as "a love poem to my mother.")

How I love your round belly, heavy
like a fruit cake beneath the tree.

You sit tucked in your flannel robe
deep in yourself in thought and dream.

The red and green and yellow lights
are reflected in your hair, your eyes.

You wait for me, feeling me
tumble, the weight growing larger

stretching you, changing you forever
floating there, nestled, like

the red and green and yellow candies
cooked in the moist sweetness of cake.

December 9, 2010

Live from the Living Room, December 8

It was a cold night outside in Albany but cozy in the Living Room of the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center for the monthly straight-friendly poetry open mic, hosted by Don Levy.

The featured poet for the night was Cara Benson, who dedicated her reading to embattled folks in the Humanities at the NYS University at Albany, & to her sister, Donna. She began with a piece from Bharat Jiva by Kari Edwards (1954-2006). Cara's first, & longest, piece was titled "Spreek." It seemed to be made up of a number of sections on different themes &/or methods, incorporating quotes from V.I. Lenin & Madonna, using repetition, stutters, word lists, cliches, interrupted syllables, jumbled syntax, even a URL read character by character. Cara then read from her book, (made) (Book Thug), apparently flipping back & forth among sections, poems, linking them with the repetition of the refrain, "& the book begins…"

(The black & white photo is from September 2004 when Cara read in the open mic here, some of the same folks in the audience then as tonight.)

I started off the open mic, reprising "October Land" for Cara, then the recent "Looking for Cougars." Bob Sharkey read, as he is wont to do each Xmas season, Edna St. Vincent Millay's "To Jesus on His Birthday," then a bit in the voice of a homeless guy from his ongoing piece, "Discursive." W.D. Clarke brought us some of his rhyme in "The Christmas Tale," & "The Cheater" (those images of drain cleaner in a condom still make me wince).

A.C. Everson also had some rhymes for the season, reflections on shopping at the Mall & on her love of lawn decorations. Sylvia Barnard said her poems were "on weird scraps of paper" -- a dream poem of long-ago Albany, her piece in rhyme about the cuts to the Humanities programs at the University (including her job). Our affable host, Don Levy, concluded with 2 pieces from his ongoing poetic memoir of the QE2, "Iffy's" & "Meeting Ginsberg."

A relaxed, cozy, straight-friendly gathering on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at the GLCC on Hudson Ave. in Albany, NY. Bring some poems to read.

December 4, 2010

New York State Writers Institute -- Jena Osman, December 2

One of the few poets to read in this year's series, Jena Osman is the 2009 National Poetry Series winner for The Network published this year by Fence Books, which has its home at the Writers Institute.

Rebecca Wolff introduced the poet, describing The Network as "speculative;" the back of the book describes it as "at the intersection of conceptual and documentary poetics," which I found useful.

Jena Osman read from 2 sections of the book, "Mercury Rising (A Visualization)" & "Financial District." Both sections (in fact the entire book) contain the poet's amateur exploration of etymology, complete with errors & wrong steps. "Mercury Rising" explores/ponders the science of the element, as well as the development of the Greek & Latin gods, even incorporating both versions of the comic book super-hero, The Flash. I was also drawn to her use of the second person pronoun, wondering who is this "you" someone seems to be addressing, perhaps a middle ground between the subjective "I" & the objective "it," I wondered.

The second piece, "Financial District," is a mix of history of the NYC area, etymology & an interwoven, as she described it, "sci-fi narrative." This third part, printed in italics in the text, was what she read, which was perplexing on its own. Not sure how it connects to the financial district, though I did catch echoes to the Mercury piece in some of the images.

I bought the book so I could spend more time exploring this challenging work.

December 3, 2010

Caffè Lena Open Mic, December 1

Our host, Carol Graser, started off the night with a tender, mother-poem by Naomi Gutman, "Milk Muse." In spite of the wind & the rain, there were quite a few poets in the house, a number from Albany & the feature, Rebecca Schumejda all the way from Kingston, NY.

The first open mic poet was Carol Kenyon with a poem in fun rhymes on her love of crazy dancing, "5th Planet Hoe-Down," then one about listening to "The Wind." In recognition of World AIDS Day I read my audience-participation political rant, "Labels & Names" ("You think they're the same, labels belong on bottles, people have names…"). Then one of the young volunteers, HHC, read a couple of poems apparently inspired by his Beat heroes, one poem titled "Home," the other about a character he met in the Library. The fine local poet we hadn't seen in awhile, Mary Kathryn Jablonski, read next with one of her lunar seas poems, "Mare Frigoris" then "What Remains" with its compelling image of Florence & mosquitos. Charles Watts read the second political poem of the night, "The Muse of Crawford Contemplates Retirement," & then his reflections on "Autumn in Lake Placid."

Rebecca Schumejda coordinates a poetry series at Half Moon Books in Kingston (I've been featured there). She began with a number of poems as character studies from her manuscript, "Cadillac Men, the Pool Hall Poems," from the time she & her husband ran a pool hall. Some she read were, like the title "The Regulars at Crazy 8s," about the patrons, "Table of Truth," & "Going Out for Ice Cream." But others took on broader subjects, such as a woman's self-image ("On withThis Sad Day"), her daughter's "First Step" in the pool hall, & husband ("Too Late in the Game"). She also read a couple selections from her book Falling Forward (sunnyoutside), & some from The Map of Our Garden (Verve Bath Press). She ended with a bouquet of more garden poems from a new collection, "A Row for Sinners," including "Sunflowers in Winter," "Disembodied Gardening" (on finding a doll's body in the soil), & the love poem "Habaneros," among others. I confess to being a big fan of Rebecca's poetry & look forward to reading the new poems in her next books.

After the break, Carol Graser was back with one of her own poems, an untitled piece, a "road poem" of sorts. Nancy Denofio read a long piece, in the voice of a 13 year old boy, she said, trying to be thankful while war rages on. Gordon Hayman's first poem was on remembering the cold days of fishermen, in rhyme, then another poem on being at an auction. Jason Crane's "Thanksgiving Poem" had him playing chess & talking (turkey?) to Ronald the turkey; then he was joined by Carolee Sherwood in "Other Than That Mrs. Lincoln," a neatly interwoven poem. Carolee stayed on stage to read (from her iPad) a list poem of clichés, "Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle," & poked fun at herself & her "relationship poems" with "Dear Reader." Jill Wickham's November poem was "Blame the Dressmaker," then she pondered the ways of nuns in "Right or Wrong" (but those headpieces would ruin her perfect hair).

W.D. Clarke's seasonal poem, "A Christmas Tale," was the story, in rhyme of course, of a boyhood attempt to catch Santa. Frank Weaver's poems were from his manuscript, the first on bow hunting, the second, "Atlantis" compared being in love with someone you can't have (I have no idea what that's like!) with the mythical city. Josh McIntyre's poem "Red Eye" paid tribute, of sorts, to Black Friday, then read the short & to the point, "In Tune." Barbara Garro considered the "Dream State," & wrote about the affects on a foster child in "Scars."

Alan Catlin's "Extended Family Christmas Shopping" was a wild ride with a team of shoplifters, & his poem "Lady Bowlers in the Lounge" which he described as "a bartender's nightmare," engendered a lot of discussion among the ladies in the back of the room. Gary Yager seems to be always last on the list, then just couldn't find the poem he wanted to read, until after he had read 2 others, all by the English poet Alfred Noyes.

By the time we left the rain had stopped, the wind had died down, & the poetry kept us warm, all the way home.

Historic Caffe Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs -- every first Wednesday, 7:00PM sign-up, 7:30 start, $3 donation.

December 2, 2010

Last Pome-a-day

[What I anticipated would be the last prompt for the pome/a/day November project from Writers Digest was not, but I had already written the poem (alternately, "I had already poemed"). Seems a shame to waste it in my battered workbook.  Sort of a half-sonnet.]


When the heart stops at the end
the breath stops, the words end
Poems don’t stand around the bed
Instead, it’s people standing like poems.

When the heart stops, hearts keep beating
those we made, those we have touched
keep beating for us when the words stop.